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Connecting Cultures

February 08, 2017

Supporting communities through teaching has always been a priority for Edwin Cuenco of the ASU art faculty, both on campus and abroad.

Edwin Cuenco Edwin Cuenco “Communication and design are essential human behaviors that shape the visual and social culture,” Cuenco said. “I believe my strength as an educator has to do with my own passion for computer graphics and the positive way in which I am able to execute my creative ideas in the classroom.”

A native of the Philippines, Cuenco teaches graphic design in the ASU Department of Visual and Performing Arts. He has also twice won a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Faculty Scholar Award that enabled him to take his teaching and enthusiasm overseas. His first one was in 2012 to the Philippines, and more recently he spent four weeks in Nepal during the 2016 fall semester.

Fulbright Faculty Scholars are chosen based on their leadership and abilities to teach, conduct research and contribute to solutions for shared international concerns.

“Being selected for the 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program was a great honor,” Cuenco said. “It promotes cooperation and relationship building between United States scholars/professionals and their counterparts at host institutions abroad.”

Cuenco (far right) with design students at Kathmandu University Cuenco (far right) with design students at Kathmandu University Most of Cuenco’s time in Nepal was spent working with students in the capital city of Kathmandu. He helped conduct visual arts training/workshops, develop a collaborative design course, and demonstrate the latest software available to help students to make a positive impact outside their campuses.

“The goal of the program,” Cuenco said, “is to develop collaborative projects on education and training to support teachers in rural communities.”

“The country of Nepal is at an important crossroads in development,” he added. “Education remains essential to Nepal with a progressive urban-rural development track and rapid population growth.”

“Collaboration with international artists helps us learn. We can create new academic partnerships, develop cultural opportunities and attract new audiences.”

Edwin Cuenco

In addition to working with students, Cuenco was invited to participate in a unique mural art project highlighting the U.S. relationship with the people of Nepal. The mural was painted over a week by Kanjirowa National High School teachers and students, USEF staff and community volunteers under his guidance.

“Through illustrations,” Cuenco said, “we hope to foster peace, cooperation and cultural exchanges to discuss common themes that connect our two countries together. The overall theme of the project is a celebration of global cooperation and cultural understanding.”

The design included digital images of prominent Nepal landmarks, including the heritage sites of Pashupatinath and Swyambhunath Temples, Boudhanath Stupa, Mt. Everest and the Himalayan Range, as well as U.S. landmarks like the White House, Statue of Liberty and Las Vegas Strip.

“The opening ceremony highlight was the arrival of the honorable Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal, Mr. Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, and Dr. Sriram Bhagut Mathe of Don Bosco College Nepal,” Cuenco said.

The opening ceremony also included Mr. Kapil Dev Regmi from Kanjirowa National High School and guests from the Fulbright U.S. Commission and the U.S. Embassy.

In addition, Cuenco helped facilitate a two-week ASU Faculty Art Exhibition with the Kathmandu University School of Arts while in Nepal, featuring the work of eight ASU faculty members. Artwork ranged from photography and digital prints to drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculptures and video art lectures.

“Collaboration with international artists helps us learn,” Cuenco said. “We can create new academic partnerships, develop cultural opportunities and attract new audiences.”

Cuenco conducted several interactive workshops while in Nepal. Cuenco conducted several interactive workshops while in Nepal.

Now back at ASU, Cuenco plans to continue working with the institutions he visited in the Philippines and Nepal to create avenues for future academic collaborations. In the near future, he hopes to bring artworks by his Nepali students to Washington D.C. for an exhibition.

Now back at ASU, Cuenco knows how invaluable these cultural experiences can be, not only for him, but also his students and the entire ASU community.

“I firmly believe that teaching abroad increases the intellectual dynamism of our institution,” Cuenco said. “We encourage our students to enhance their education with a new world view while providing enriching experiences and global connection.”

“This life experience has been truly transformational,” he added. “It has enabled me to better appreciate the unique difference and similarities between cultures.”